Business Marketing for Pilates and Yoga Instructors

An Interview with Kylie Saunder

Three woman having fun doing Pilates and yoga floor exercises

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If you are a Pilates or yoga instructor, especially if you have a studio, you might be thinking, Great, I know how to teach, but no one gave me any training in marketing. Almost everyone needs help with their business marketing.

Advertising and having an informative website are important. But that's not where you should put your focus first, says Pilates and yoga business marketing mentor Kylie Saunder. After working in the corporate world, she became a fitness and Pilates instructor, successfully running a fitness studio and two Pilates studios.

Key Business Questions to Ask

The first step, says Saunder, is a vision for your business. You have to get very clear about what you want from your business and how you want to participate in it. Ask yourself:

  • Are nights and/or weekends OK? If so, how often?
  • Do I really want a studio?
  • How much do I want to work?
  • When do I want to work?
  • Who do I want to work with?

Once you open to exploring questions like these you might find there are more options than you think, and those can lead to a more satisfying business as well as creative marketing.

You might think you can't afford to honor to your own wants. Maybe you are afraid to define yourself for fear of alienating a potential client. But clarifying what you want and what's special about what you have to offer is the critical piece you need to differentiate yourself from the pack.

If you're not working with the right types of people from day one, you're not branding yourself and getting the right referrals, says Saunder. Once you set your intention, your personal life and your business can thrive in harmony.

Common Marketing Traps to Avoid

As you build your brand and your business, stay out of common marketing traps.

Copycat Marketing

Don't fall into the trap of looking to other Pilates studios to know what to do. For example, some business owners look at local prices and try to win by being cheaper, says Saunder.

That can work in the short run, but you won't be building a sustainable business that reflects anything special. If you can make what's special about you and your business stand out, you can charge properly for that.

Another copycat trap is to think you have to give the same kinds of classes other studios do. If, for example, competitors are all running 75-minute reformer classes, but that doesn't work for you, don't do it.

Be creative. What about a 30-minute express class instead? If everyone is teaching reformer, maybe you emphasize props or circuit training, Saunder says. And the same kind of out-of-the-box thinking needs to go into what you say in your marketing. You won't stand out if you market yourself saying the same things everyone else says.

Don't try to do marketing that doesn't feel right to you just because "everyone" is doing it or saying things a certain way.

If you are in business, you are going to hear that everyone has to market on Twitter and Facebook. But is that for you? Is it where your clients are?

If you hate it, Saunder says, it's not going to work for you. If you love it and your clients are there, great. There is no one formula. The point is to be grounded in who you are. "If you just copy what everybody says you have to do, you won't be successful. What you choose has to fit with who you are. Listen to your intuition."

Misdirected Marketing

Marketing to peers and not prospective clients is another trap lots of Pilates teachers, in particular, fall into. Being different and connecting with the right clients is not about touting your Pilates or yoga training, Saunder says.

Clients assume you have training and, in any case, most don't know what your certification really means. Nor is it about putting Joseph Pilates or the history of Pilates on your homepage. What does that mean to clients, she asks? Nothing. What you need to do to help your business is to speak your clients' language.

Ignoring Feedback

You need to be able to articulate what you are offering in a way that draws the right clients to you. The clients you have, the ones that are like the ones you want more of, can teach you how to do that.

This is where a lot of teachers run into some inner resistance, Saunder says. It's easy to ask, "How was the class?" and get an "It was great." But you have to dig deeper.

Find out what benefits your clients are receiving from your classes—how they feel after and how that affects their lives. Listen to what they say and how they say it. They are telling you what is important to them as well as what kinds of descriptions make sense to them, and to people like them.

Chances are, Saunder points out, clients are not going to use standard ​Pilates terms like "long, lean muscles" or "efficient movement." If you can use what they do say, you can attract more clients who want those benefits.

Lack of Self-Promotion

Not only do you need to talk to your clients, but you need to get out into your community. That's where your clients are, and that's where you will find out what they want and spot niches you can fill.

Does touting the fact that Pilates can give you a body like a ballet dancer really making sense in an area where the majority of your clients are looking for relief from aches and pains and better posture? Some clientele is interested in having a dancers' body. If that is a niche in your area, and that's what you want to teach, then, by all means, put it out there.

It's not a formula, but rather a willingness to be creative and listen. That way, you get an enduring match between the life you want to live and finding clients who want your work.

Saunder points out that people miss many cross-promotion opportunities by not getting out and looking for them. Have you introduced yourself to your business neighborhood? If your neighbor knows what you do they can tell someone else.

If you are not willing to get clear on your marketing and do what it takes to meet people and get clients, a Pilates business can be a very expensive hobby.

Lacking Confidence

Do you need more training or do you need good marketing? So often, Saunder says, we have confidence when we're teaching, but rarely were we trained in promotion and marketing. Then, when clients don't show up, we default to the idea that we need more training. Oh, if I only knew more about backs or shoulders or certain populations, we think.

Your professional development is important, but another training program or another piece of equipment isn't going to bring in more clients. Get the clients, then get training to serve them, Saunder says.

No one is likely to come along and give you permission to be an expert. An expert, Saunder says, is someone who knows more than the person next to them.

Too many instructors think they can't give workshops, for example, because they know others who know more than they do. But if you can help someone else, you can offer your service, even if you've only been teaching six months.

Maybe you had an injury that Pilates helped you recover from. You know a lot about that. You don't have to be a "master teacher" to do a basic knee workshop or something similar.

A Word From Verywell

Having the right mindset is about giving yourself permission to be who you are and letting that be your brand. Then, you decide who you want to work with and figure out how to talk to them. That's your marketing.

It's a relief when you see that being yourself can work in your favor in marketing. As Saunder says: Joseph Pilates was unique. Stand up and inject your uniqueness into your own business!

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